Poor performance at school, a consistently rebellious attitude and a father who was unbending in his discipline resulted in Tom’s expulsion from his home in 1984 at age 17. He lived with friends and eventually he joined the Marines.
There Tom learned to drink and drug. He eventually got kicked out of the Marines for his drug use, and he returned home. But his dishonorable discharge drove a deeper wedge between Tom and his ex-Marine drill instructor father. Tom decided that life was too tough to face – so he took off for a life on the streets.
For the next twenty years Tom lived on the streets. As he moved from place to place, he would hook up with others who were drinking and drugging. Sometimes he would connect to someone and live with him for a while. Other times he would sleep under bridges and on park benches. For long periods of time his family – Mom, Dad, two brothers and a sister – would not know where he was – whether he was dead or alive. Then he would surface and give them a call. But always, it was back to the streets. In 1986 he was arrested in Texas and did some prison time. When he was let out on probation, he fled the state—returning to life on the streets.
Finally in 1998, he was living in New Hampshire. Winter was coming and he did not want to live under a bridge in the bitter cold. In remembering the moment, Tom says: “I had a moment of clarity and realized that I could die and no one would know where I was and there would be no evidence that I ever lived on this earth. So, I cried out to God for help, and He gave it. It was not the kind of help I wanted, but it did turn out to be help.”
The next day Tom was arrested and when his name was run through the police computer system, his probation violation showed up. Tom was extradited back to Texas where he served the remaining four years on his Texas prison term.
When he was released, Tom paroled to Houston. He moved into a halfway house and shared a room with Art C. Art was attending Harbor Church and he invited Tom to come. Tom says: “I wish I could say that I was interested in Jesus. The truth is that Art told me they were serving good food, and I was hungry for some home cooking.” Tom returned to Harbor again and again. He says, “I was attracted by the food, but I was captured by the authenticity and the unconditional love that I experienced.”
Tom came to Christ and was baptized on Easter Sunday morning in 2002. He moved into Alpha House and participated in the discipleship process. He developed a hunger for Jesus that became noticeable to everyone around him.
In the fall of 2003, Todd McComb, a Christian leader in Houston, contacted Jim Herrington, Harbor’s Pastor. Todd was opening a ministry similar to Alpha House but focused on ex-offenders and located in the 5th Ward. He wanted to know if someone from Alpha House might lead that ministry. Tom Murphy became that person and today gives oversight to a ministry that involves 15 ex-offenders.
Tom says: “I never would have believed that I could live a life where God was real and present in my everyday experience. But He is and He allows me to make a real difference in the lives of men like me. It’s so incredible.”